January 25, 2008

If digital is the future...

Why am I still ordering so many books? I'm wrapping up the month and looking at my budget to see if I'm where I should be in my spending for this time of year. It made me think back to one of the morning sessions at last year's Charleston Conference. The first morning, well, I didn't think those sessions were nearly as good as the rest of the conference. But, one of the things said by a presenter still sticks out in my mind. He said we're "risking the future if we're not going to a digital library."

I have no problem with going digital, especially with journals, but he didn't really define material types, though I did jot down something about reference. I agree - reference titles are well suited for a digital format. However, in order to go digital, so must the publishers. And, I can tell you, many, many publishers are still turning out ooodles of printed books without electronic (digital) counterparts. I've ordered over 100 titles just in the past week and that doesn't include what has come in on approval.

In going through my slips this past week, I did find one Economics title (2 volumes) that was available through the e-book vendor we recently signed up with (the pricing and usage model is incredibly convoluted, but that's a different post), so since we didn't purchase a collection and have been encouraged to purchase titles from this vendor, I decided to get this set in digital format. Each title was one and half times the cost of the print version. I suspect this is due to the convoluted pricing model of the vendor, but if I were on a tight budget (as I was in my previous position), I would have a decision to make regarding how important it was to have the title electronically or just to have the title. Many titles are low usage by the nature of the work (i.e. more theorteical, very specialized, limited audience). Is it justified to purchase in digital format at higher cost just to be digital or is it more prudent to go with the less expensive of the options? Or, will having it in a digital format increase the usage? It will be interesting to see the usage on this title over time as it falls into what I would call a low usage category.

I would like to experiment with others, but this was the only title in all of the slips I went through (and there were a lot) that was available electronically. So, if I take the presenter literally, I should be moving toward having everything in digital format. But maybe not. Maybe he just meant reference. Or maybe he meant we need digital libraries alongside traditional libraries. Regardless of how he is defining it, what I do know is that publishers are still churning out printed books en masse and for most there is no digital/electonic counterpart. Which means I'm still purchasing printed books for the traditional part of my library.